I have come to believe that the grieving process is like a great work of art. Don’t roll your eyes. I thought about this lying in bed last night.
When my canvas arrived and my paint was fresh, I just stared at it. Some people get right to work: zip-zap, swish-swosh, just whip it out and get on with their lives. Not to minimize their pain, but they just face it head on.
I procrastinated. I think I was too full of baggage from the preceding three or four years. Those last two were particularly harrowing. It (the good grief) just wouldn’t take shape. But it was always deep inside me, clanging around like a clumsy ghost. Everything that had previously seemed meaningful (and fun) in my life seemed dull and uninspiring.
I haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years. And I always loved Christmas trees so much. I never thought even Hell itself could purge the holiday spirit out of me. But grief-in-waiting distorted everything and made my world old and mournful.
This year I began painting. At some point I came to realize that the thing in my frame was a mirror and I just got tired of looking at it. So I got to work. I bought some books about grieving and, surprisingly, they were extremely helpful. I started praying on the floor. You wouldn’t believe the junk that came out (or the junk under my bed!) And I let myself just cry and cry whenever I felt like it.
Some days my grief colors are bright and bold, and I see recognizable images forming and starting to solidify. Other days, it's more hazy and smudgy and nothing seems to work that well. But after three years of unrelenting art lessons, I have slowly but surely added some exquisite detail to my work. I’ve learned to steady my wobbly brush by leaning back on God and allowing His hand to guide my hand as we create this masterpiece together.
I brought my grief canvas to Alaska. I packed it solid, not intending to leave it behind. Seeing the new landscape, physical and mental, is helping me put the finishing touches on my picture. On the outside I may seem like the daring, altruistic missionary, going where no Floridian has gone before (or would want to), but when the gallery closes, I’m telling you that painting hanging lopsided in the corner will be an undeniable self portrait.